The background to it is that post-pandemic we have seen huge changes in the way customers behave and this is just as evident in the engineering and technology markets as elsewhere.
It would be wrong to only blame the pandemic for these changes, after all, it just accelerated what was already happening. But we are now in a different world to pre-pandemic and it doesn’t look like it’s going to revert any time soon.
Customer behaviour has always been fickle, however we can now see predictable patterns emerging which we would be foolish to ignore.
The most obvious of these is the way work-from-home has had an effect on customer loyalty: there’s more research going on and it is becoming increasingly difficult for suppliers to influence this directly. This is because work-from-home gives people more privacy and time, during which they can study a wider range of suppliers in a market, and there are fewer phone conversations and in-person meetings making it harder for sales people to influence the decision-making process.
The new sales channels
In other words people are working for more time on their computers and are less accessible. This makes inbound marketing for engineering and technology companies, who typically are most dependent on sales engineers to develop relationships with customers, more important than ever.
It would be wrong to say that inbound marketing is a new way to reach these markets as it has always existed. The difference now is that it is no longer a support for direct, relationship-assisted sales; rather it has become a sales channel in its own right. If your marketing department has done its job correctly, your sales team no longer need to persuade cold customers to buy; all they have to do is talk to warm leads and hopefully tie up the deal!
Why is Inbound Marketing so effective?
Google it and you’ll find ‘Inbound Marketing is a strategic approach to creating valuable content that aligns with the needs of your target audiences and inspires long-term customer relationships’, which is a complicated way of saying that your customers are your customers because you provide solutions to their problems. What’s not to like?
It incorporates content marketing, website design and build, social media, search engine optimisation (SEO), database marketing, email broadcasting, prospect engagement strategies and flexibility amongst product designers and software writers who have to be able to supply the products and services customers are seeking. In other words, all the things you can do on your laptop, at home, to fill the hours you used to spend commuting!
These activities are geared towards customers and prospects, reassuring customers (bye-bye cognitive dissonance!) and helping prospects find you themselves, so that the sale becomes just a question of ‘when’ not ‘if’.
So let’s have a look at the component parts of an inbound marketing campaign:
By providing the content in a smart way you will have a double effect:
The critical thing to be aware of is that most prospects are going to come to your website via a link on Google or social media. This means they won’t come through your home page so you have to treat second level pages (and deeper) as if they were landing pages.
Your social media now has to have a strategy – the days of posting for fun are long gone. It is vital that every post follows the strategy as it’s too easy for prospects to blank you. Every post must be considered and prepared with this in mind.
Organic SEO (as opposed to paid SEO, through advertising and promoted links) falls into two areas – content and technical. I’ve already talked about content, but technical SEO is just as important. Your site must be built and maintained in such a way that Google’s bots can easily find and present your content. This extends even as far as your choice of hosting services.
Your database – built through all the disciplines above being well implemented – will enable you to capitalise on all that hard work. A good quality database is the key to ongoing, inbound marketing, which allows you to develop relationships beyond the initial contact. A good quality CRM (content relationship management) system is rare but helpful when you get one that works for you.
One-to-one communications is the holy grail of marketing. But be aware: get your emails right and you will have many warm leads. But get it wrong and you will have even more ‘unsubscribes’! Your frequency has to be somewhere between ‘stalking’ and ‘forgetting’!
This can be the hardest part, as it requires everyone in the company to pull together – led by the marketing department who as we all know, are not necessarily well respected by engineers. But unless you design your products and services from the customers’ viewpoint, you won’t be in business for long!
Plan and implement all these correctly with a winning strategy, and you will find new customers beating a path to your door, literally, via Google. That’s what Inbound Marketing can do for you. And remember – if you don’t do it, your competitors surely will!
Now available – Ask the Experts Episode #01:
Podcast by Marcom: Jan 2023